|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
January 12, 2000
Mr. Paul Sarahan
Dear Mr. Sarahan:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 131045.
The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (the "commission") received a request for information relating to the petroleum refineries located at 6501 Trowbridge and 6500 Trowbridge, El Paso, Texas. You indicate that you have submitted a representative sample of information for our review.(1) You state that the commission has made portions of the responsive information available to the requestor. You claim, however, that the submitted documents are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.107 and 552.111 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the submitted information.
You first claim that the documents submitted as Exhibit B are excepted from disclosure under section 552.107. Section 552.107(1) excepts information that an attorney cannot disclose because of a duty to his client. In Open Records Decision No. 574 (1990), this office concluded that section 552.107 excepts from public disclosure only "privileged information," that is, information that reflects either confidential communications from the client to the attorney or the attorney's legal advice or opinions; it does not apply to all client information held by a governmental body's attorney. Id. at 5. When communications from attorney to client do not reveal the client's communications to the attorney, section 552.107 protects them only to the extent that such communications reveal the attorney's legal opinion or advice. Id. at 3. In addition, basically factual communications from attorney to client, or between attorneys representing the client, are not protected. Id. It is not clear that, nor do you explain how, the information submitted as Exhibit B is confidential client communication to the attorney or the attorney's legal advice or opinion. Therefore, we conclude that Exhibit B must be released to the requestor.
You seek to withhold all or portions of the remaining submitted documents under section 552.111. Section 552.111 excepts from disclosure "an interagency or intraagency memorandum or letter that would not be available by law to a party in litigation with the agency." In Open Records Decision No. 615 (1993), this office reexamined the predecessor to the section 552.111 exception in light of the decision in Texas Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, no writ), and held that section 552.111 excepts only those internal communications consisting of advice, recommendations, opinions, and other material reflecting the policymaking processes of the governmental body. Open Records Decision No. 615 at 5-6 (1993). Section 552.111 does not except from disclosure purely factual information that is severable from the opinion portion of internal memoranda. Open Records Decision No. 559 (1990). After careful review, we agree that portions of the information at issue may be withheld pursuant to section 552.111. We have marked the factual information that must be released.
Additionally, in Open Records Decision No. 559 (1990), this office held that a preliminary draft of a document that is intended for release in a final form necessarily represents the advice, opinion, and recommendation of the drafter as to the form and content of the final document and as such may be withheld pursuant to the predecessor of section 552.111. The draft documents before us directly pertain to policy matters concerning the commission. Assuming that these documents in fact are released to the public in their final form, we conclude that the commission may withhold these draft documents pursuant to section 552.111.
You also contend that the information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.111 because it is attorney work product. A governmental body may withhold attorney work product from disclosure under section 552.111 if it demonstrates that the material was 1) created for trial or in anticipation of civil litigation, and 2) consists of or tends to reveal an attorney's mental processes, conclusions and legal theories. Nat'l Tank Co., v. Brotherton, 851 S.W.2d 193 (Tex. 1993); Open Records Decision No. 647 (1996). You do not explain in your correspondence to our office how the submitted information meets either of the above criteria. Therefore, because you have not met your burden, the information may not be withheld as attorney work product under section 552.111.
This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.
This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. § 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).
If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. § 552.3215(e).
If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. § 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).
If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.
Carla Gay Dickson
Ref: ID# 131045
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Lara Mathews
1. In reaching our conclusion here, we assume that the "representative sample" of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988); 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US